Legal Decision Making
When you have a family law matter in Arizona, the term “child custody” has been replaced by “legal decision making” and concerns the decision making process for the child's education, religious upbringing, health care and personal care. There are three types of legal decision making: Joint, Joint with Final Decision Making Authority in the Event of a Dispute or Sole Legal Decision Making.
Joint legal decision making means both parents have an equal say in decision related to their child’s education, religious training, medical care and personal care. The courts usually award the parents joint legal decision making unless there is a history of significant domestic violence, and/or substance abuse issues. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, they will often be required to mediate the dispute prior to seeking assistance from the court.
Joint legal decision making with one parenting having final decision making authority occurs most frequently when there are communication issues, a history of domestic violence or substance abuse concerns. The parents are expected to discuss the child related issue and try reach agreements however, if they cannot, one parent has the authority to make the final decision.
Sole legal decision making means that one parent has the ability and authority to make decisions involving those same four areas (education, religion, medical and personal care). This creates a power imbalance between the parents, however, when there is high conflict between the parents, domestic violence or some other serious issue, joint legal decision making would be nearly impossible.
Real life success story: Attorney Jane Schmaltz successfully argued for her client to be awarded sole legal decision making. The other parent was not actively involved in the minor’s life and had only sporadic parenting time. When the client attempted to consult with the other parent about important decisions, the client would be subjected to repeated harassing calls, texts, and emails.